The Baltimore Sun

Choose the children over tobacco industry

In his column defending Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's misguided vote against the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill in Congress, Gregory Kane left out one of the main reasons Mr. Bartlett voted against the bill and President Bush vetoed it: The bill would have been funded by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tobacco tax ("Bartlett has plan to insure poor kids," Oct. 20).

This funding mechanism would have deterred many children across the country from becoming addicted to tobacco and raised enough money to provide health care for 4 million children.

It is laughable for people such as Mr. Bush and Mr. Bartlett to suggest that the bill would lead to government-run medicine when the program is limited to lower- and moderate-income children, and some of the most conservative Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted for it.

Even at the highest income level for eligibility the bill would have allowed without a special waiver - $62,000 a year for a family of four - there are millions of hardworking Americans who cannot afford the high cost of health insurance.

At present, uninsured kids often end up getting emergency and other urgent care at hospitals at public expense. It makes much more sense to cover these kids through a program such as SCHIP than to leave them to emergency care.

I hope Mr. Bartlett will join the 59 percent of his constituents who support the SCHIP bill and choose children over tobacco companies the next time the issue comes to a vote.

Vincent DeMarco


The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

Opposition to school callous to children

I was shocked by the reaction of Mays Chapel area residents to a proposed school for special-needs children ("Mays Chapel neighbors want park, not school," Oct. 17.)

What has gone wrong in our society when we put our recreational needs above those of our children - particularly special-education students?

The school would be built on less than four acres of a 20-acre site. The Baltimore County Board of Education has owned this land since 1986, and it was always slated to be a school site.

And yet the residents protest, fearing that the remaining 16 acres of parkland won't be enough to allow them to stroll and walk their dogs.

It just seems so callous.

The school board is willing to share the land it owns with these residents. It has done so for more than two decades.

So why aren't these residents willing to share the land with our children?

John Patterson


Just ban breeding of more pit bulls

The Baltimore County Council can best protect pit bulls - and people - by banning the breeding of pit bulls ("Balto. Co. rejects pit bull curbs," Oct. 16).

Pit bulls are abused more than any other breed of dog, and they often become vicious as a result.

Many pit bulls are chained to trees or barrels and not given enough food or water. They are usually kept as guard dogs or forced to fight with other pit bulls. Most pit bulls are not spayed or neutered - and unaltered dogs are more likely to be aggressive.

Baltimore County animal shelters euthanize thousands of animals every year.

There is no reason for anyone to breed any more dogs and certainly not pit bulls.

Anyone who cares about these dogs should support legislation to stop their suffering.

Katie Moore


Turn vacant houses into urban farms

Baltimore continues to have a significant problem with abandoned housing and resulting neighborhood blight ("Taking it to the bank," editorial, Oct. 14). So why not take some of these vacant properties, demolish the buildings and create city farms?

City agriculture could create a source of income for inner-city families, improve diets and thereby reduce obesity and other medical problems as it fosters pride in the community.

Ridding the city of dilapidated properties, which are havens for criminals, and turning that property into beneficial land should be a top priority.

Yes, the housing will need to be replaced. But making neighborhoods attractive to developers must happen before development can flourish.

A public-private partnership to create city farms could be a step in the right direction.

New York City has embarked on a similar program with much success.

Let's give it a try.

John Beckett


History leaves us no grounds to judge

I believe we need to look at ourselves first as a country before we judge other nations ("Armenia genocide resolution falters," Oct. 17).

Before condemning any group for committing genocide, shouldn't the U.S. government formally acknowledge that this nation began by colonizing the land of people who were established on this soil and then greatly reducing or completely wiping out entire groups we now call "Native Americans" (and this on top of engaging in the slave trade)?

We are a great nation, but like any country, we have our flaws.

I think we should first look at our own history and have some humility about the actions of our forefathers and the misguided actions we are still taking now.

Only then can we judge other countries and leaders.

Brent Flickinger


Leave the atrocities of past in the past

Talk about people living in glass houses: America complaining about Turkey and genocide in Armenia would be akin to Turkey complaining about America at My Lai ("Armenia genocide resolution falters," Oct. 17).

These events are in the past; let's leave them there.

John Miller


Arab intransigence caused 'catastrophe'

Instead of viewing the 1947 U.N. partition agreement as an opportunity for their first state, Palestinians coveted the other half - the lands granted to the Jews. So they, along with neighboring Arab states, attacked the Jewish part to try to win control of all the territory.

The Palestinians failed miserably. They lost everything, mostly to their land-grabbing Arab brethren: Egypt took Gaza, while Jordan took the West Bank.

But the fact that the Palestinians didn't accept their half of the U.N. partition is the cause of their "catastrophe," not the "founding of Israel" ("Winds of change in Holocaust Museum," Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 16).

For peace to ensue now, the Palestinian camp must stop this coveting of the Jewish side of the partition - Israel.

It must give up its claim to a right to return of Palestinians and their millions of offspring to Israel - which would give Palestinians control of the Jewish side of the territory because of their sheer numbers.

Never in history has the losing side of a conflict been so demanding with preconditions and claims in negotiations, especially when, given its aggression, that side should feel fortunate to be getting a second chance to get anything.

Michael Berenhaus


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